The second edition of Marvel’s surprise hit, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is uneven, yet a worthy sequel.
The opening sequence of Guardians, as Groot (Vin Diesel) jigs to “Mr. Blue Sky” while the Guardians clash against a monster, sets the conflict and a disturbing trend. The team: Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) are fighting each other, but fighting more than usual. Tasked with protecting batteries for a species of aliens that look like an Aryan “master race,” the team aren’t capable of working cohesively.
There are multiple themes rotating through Guardians, the most successful is family. Quill, fatherless, is reacquainted with his parentage: Ego (Kurt Russell). “Ego” is a God, with the ability to create planets and species. Quill, ironically, finds out that he is an actual “Star Lord,” in fact a God. Meanwhile, Gamora’s sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), still wants to kill her. Another theme, is the “master race.” For some reason, the Sovereign, a race of OCD germophobic species, enlists the Guardians’ help (A team known for its thievery) to protect their batteries. On the other hand, Ego is on the search for the perfect form of life, finding it in Peter. Russell, is perfect as the quipping god, who has little time for others, and plenty of expertise in manipulation.
Those two themes gives Guardians its weight, and allows for an expansion of every character. More so than any other Marvel film, the characters aren’t stagnant. Each character is grappling with an internal struggle. The only static character is most likely Groot, but for someone with a vocabulary of a mole rat, that’s not surprising.
A couple pieces of Guardians do not work. There is too much emphasis on pairing. For some reason, every character has to be paired with another to gain any depth. The most cringe worthy, being Drax and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). On paper, it seems appropriate to compare two dissimilar characters. Drax the unfeeling “ugly” dope, and Mantis, the beautiful overly feeling alien. As well-intentioned as this may be, it doesn’t follow through. At times, it feels far too forced. The idea that two oblivious characters, tumble weeds have more social awareness than them, could foil Ego’s plot doesn’t appear believable. Especially, when it leads nowhere. It’s a red herring. Drax and Mantis don’t foil Ego. Instead, it’s Gamora, which makes the Drax and Mantis pairing window dressing at best and at worst, wasted time.
The other issue with Guardians is the reliance on its soundtrack. The music is what gives Guardians its unique touch. The uniqueness wears off because there aren’t five minutes that go by that doesn’t feel like a music video. These montages slow the pacing of the first hour of the film to an excruciatingly slow pace. The first hour is nearly wasted because of an emphasis on too much glitter, and less substance. It also stunts character development. Yondu (Michael Rooker) is most victimized by this. Yes, he has a rise, a fall, and a sort of re-birth, but his intentions are muddied. He doesn’t become a complete father figure until later, and this mostly seems disingenuous. Mainly, because the audience has been given enough of Yondu through two films, to make this transformation from asshole to father figure unbelievable.
Guardians is an enjoyable and funny film, well all except the “Tazer face” gag which got old quick. The first hour can mostly be skipped, but the second hour makes the film, and makes this installment of Guardians the best Marvel sequel since Winter Soldier. Look out Bucky, better sidekicks and friends are elsewhere in Marvel….
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Credit for cover photo: comicbookmovie.com